FARMINGTON — More than a dozen doctors, business owners and community leaders on Thursday urged state officials to let the state’s largest hospital group take over Franklin Community Health Network, saying the acquisition would save the area’s only hospital, improve health care and cut costs.

Many lauded MaineHealth, the parent of Maine Medical Center in Portland, for the cost savings, technological advancement and specialty care they believe it could bring.

Franklin Community Health Network is the parent organization of Franklin Memorial Hospital, NorthStar ambulance service, Evergreen Behavioral Services and the Healthy Community Coalition of Greater Franklin County. It also owns a number of doctors’ offices.

“In the long run, this will be good for the hospital and for the community,” said Scott Landry, a local business owner and board member of the local Healthy Community Coalition.

About 30 people attended the public hearing at the University of Maine at Farmington on Thursday. More than a dozen offered comment.

One local doctor said he’s been advocating such a merger for years.

“MaineHealth is the logical place to go to be involved in that integrated relationship,” said Roderick Prior, who served as medical director at Franklin Memorial Hospital from 1992 to 2007.

“We don’t have the scale in Franklin County to do these things on our own and we need a strong affiliation to do so,” Prior said. “As I say, I thought 20 years ago this was a no-brainer. I still think so.”

No one spoke against the proposal. One person — the head of a tri-county advocacy group for victims of domestic violence — expressed concern.

“Our catchment area covers three counties. Not all of the hospitals are part of MaineHealth,” Safe Voices Executive Director Jane Morrison said.

She said Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston plays a major role in the area. “I just want to be sure that competition between those hospital entities does not create a negative experience for victims of domestic violence. If that can be achieved through this MaineHealth partnership, then I am in support.”

Franklin Community Health Network has struggled in recent years with high costs, low payments and national health care reforms. Last year, its board of directors began looking for a larger hospital organization to take over.

The board considered four organizations. MaineHealth was one of them.

Franklin Community Health Network’s president refused to say who the other three were, though all are public nonprofits.

“We don’t have permission from those other health systems,” said Rebecca Arsenault during a break from the public hearing. “I would want to ask them first.”

Franklin Community Health Network officials liked that MaineHealth would give local patients access to specialists, would help save money in administrative overhead and would help the smaller hospital group deal with health care reform. Its board voted unanimously to let MaineHealth take over.

The two hospital groups will need approval from the Maine Department of Health and Human Service’s Licensing and Regulatory Services Division.

Although no one spoke against the acquisition Thursday, Chuck Gill, spokesman for Central Maine Healthcare in Lewiston, a MaineHealth competitor, has publicly said he’s concerned Franklin County-area patients will be shifted away from local care to MaineHealth’s biggest hospital.

He attended the public hearing but did not comment.

The state will accept written comment until 5 p.m. May 5. Written comments can be sent to DHHS, Licensing and Regulatory Services, Certificate of Need Unit, Station House Station 11, 41 Anthony Ave., Augusta, ME 04333-0011.

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